Slightly unusual pets for slightly unusual children
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These cheeky acrobats will keep the kids entertained with their lively personalities and ability to learn tricks and even words.
A small grey-cheeked parakeet can be housed in a medium sized cage (16-20 inches wide) as long as they have plenty of supervised time outside of their cage and a plethora of perches, ropes, bells and acrylic or wooden toys to keep them satisfied.
These parakeets are all about the fruit and are known for ignoring all other foods however the seeds and pips are toxic so be sure to remove these first.
Grey-cheeks also enjoy a good splish-splash in a shallow bath too which is a lovely bonding activity for your child and their parakeet.
Neither rodent nor porcupine, the hedgehog is a relatively low maintenance insectivore. It will be more helpful for you to choose a hedgehog that is tame and well handled, who will unroll and flatten their quills.
With a diet rich in insects, this isn’t a pet for the more squeamish out there. Appropriate types of fruit and veg and occasional bowls of cat or dog food will keep your hog happy.
While hedgehogs have grown in popularity and supplies are more widely available, you can also have fun creating your own housing with homemade ramps, bridges and soft beds.
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A lot can be learned from observing the industrious world of the ant. Their committed team work and often gruesome activities of the queen, workers and soldiers are more fascinating than you may have thought.
There are many different types of ants (22,000 species to be precise) with differing requirements from humid conditions to ball nests, not to mention the ants that will create a bivouac nest of their own bodies.
The common black garden ant would be more suitable for younger children as they don’t sting and require less time and resources yet will still prove an intriguing pet. Find more information about housing requirements and ant types here.
While the grey-cheeked parakeet will be a loud and proud addition to the house, the finch is a smaller and quieter bird that some children may prefer. They come in a variety of different colours and markings including black breasted, penguin and yellow beak.
Finches need friends and you will need to bring at least two home with you. As with all birds, zebra finches need regular exercise outside of their cage and will proceed to sleep soundly at night with the rest of the family. You can always decide to build an aviary outside and let your birds exercise as they please.
Zebra finches need a gentle touch so that they won’t bite through stress and plenty of stimulating toys to keep them happy.
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This quiet and odourless rodent can be a rather soft and fluffy addition to your family.
The chinchilla needs a cool environment (no higher than 75 degrees) and a large cage for their active nocturnal lifestyle.
Although cute and fluffy, they are rather shy and will need an older and more patient child who will handle them carefully and are committed to them for their impressive 10–20-year lifespan.
You have likely seen the arresting array of colourful fish at your local pet shop or aquarium. But of course, research is vital before choosing your attractive tropical fish.
In the appropriate-sized aquarium with the right kit, your fish can surprise your family with growth spurts, longer life span and happier behaviour than the tiny depressed fish you all saw at the shop.
There are online forums for tropical fish owners who share tips and advice for nurturing the happiest and healthiest aquatic pet.
Realistically, if your child is going to be the main carer, you will need to choose a more hardy fish that can stand a little over-feeding and the odd missed tank clean and perhaps a noisy environment. The best advice is to do your research and consider that sometimes it’s not worth relying on the pet shop to give you the correct information.
If a family member suffers from pet hair allergies, amphibians can be a fantastic alternative for older children. Leopard geckos in particular, are considered one of the easier lizards to care for due to their docile nature and inability to climb walls and escape.
Younger children will need supervision when handling smaller leopard geckos that can be a little delicate. It is worth noting the leopard gecko, when cared for appropriately, can live for up to 20 years.
Please note this is a suggestive guide only and all pets listed need extensive research before you choose the right pet for you and your family. If your child is going to be the primary carer, make sure they are responsible enough to look after their new friend properly and that everyone is aware of the pet’s specific requirements.